The Stepsister Scheme (Princess Novels Series #1)

The Stepsister Scheme - Jim C. Hines Cinderella, (Danielle) has her Happily Ever After. She’s married to her prince, Armand, she lives in the palace. Everything seems wonderful.But the stepsisters haven’t give up and gone away just because Danielle made it down the aisle with her prince. And after an aborted assassination attempt on Danielle, Armand has gone missing and the sisters are clearly implicated.Thankfully, Danielle is not without resources – especially since her new mother-in-law, Queen Beatrice has been collecting extraordinary young women with amazing talents to help find her lost son Danielle doesn’t step out alone – but with the lethally skilled Talia (Sleeping Beauty) and the magically gifted Snow (Snow White). Even though it takes them to the depths of fairy land, they will find her Prince.There’s something so delightfully fun about retelling fairy tales that we all know so very well. Especially taking the often passive princesses and re-writing the story to make them the saviour and the Prince the one in peril for once. I love the application of cynical realism to these fairy tales – especially how the Happily Ever After could never ever be that neat. How could Cinderella so quickly transition from being a servant to being a princess? How can Sleeping Beauty go to sleep for a hundred years and not expect her kingdom to have been taken over and her legend be exploited and controlled? That her throne would just be waiting for her when she woke up? And could Snow White really kill her mother who has been Queen for how long and expect to step into her shoes without any political support or allies? Things are not nearly as neat as fairy tales require them to be. Or that the villains don’t just go away because they’ve been defeated, it’s not so simple.I also love the reinterpretation of the tales. What Talia does with her dancing gift from the fey. I love Snow’s dwarfs - that was definitely something I didn’t expect – and Snow using mirrors for magic. It’s some excellent developments of the core fairy tales, adding reality and depth to these shallow tales.Naturally this makes the world a very fun one, just expanding on the fairy tale worlds then adding vast variety and possibility from the fairy kingdom alone makes it one with vast potential. And because it has been found with a sense of cynical politics, there’s a greater level of humanity and realism than such a magical setting would suggest.The plot itself is rather linear, but then this is an adventure quest on which the fate of the kingdom rests. There really isn’t time for side-quests or distractions nor is there ever any question about whodunit , only really how and why – and, more importantly, how to get the prince back. It’s decently paced with lots of appropriate exposition without getting too distracted along the way. Perhaps a little long windedness here and there or moments that could have moved faster, but I’m nitpicking more than anything. It could have been faster – but that doesn’t mean it was slow, long winded or dragging.I was happy to see that one of the princesses, Talia, was both a POC (including with her own culture and her own cuisine) and that she was a Lesbian. The downside on both is that, of course, she was focused on someone else’s Happily Ever After (but then, so was Snow), that she was the only POC and foreign – so POC is the external other and, of course, as a Lesbian she has both an unrequited love on a straight woman (though I still loved that scene) and is a victim of rape. There’s a really nasty trope that Lesbians in particular and GBLT people in general are GBLT because of a terrible experience with the opposite sex and though there’s no link drawn in the text.Read More